Tuesday, December 18, 2007

January Book Selection

The January book will be The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin. We will meet on Monday, January 28, 2008 at 3:30pm in the Children's Program Room to have snacks, do a craft and discuss the book.
It's the Chinese Year of the Dog! When Pacy's mom tells her that this is a good year for friends, family, and "finding herself", Pacy begins searching right away. As the year goes on, she struggles to find her talent, deals with disappointment, makes a new best friend, and discovers just why the Year of the Dog is a lucky one for her after all.

Monday, December 17, 2007

December meeting

The Last Holiday Concert =

The Book Buddies Book Club meeting this afternoon was great! Everyone really liked The Last Holiday Concert. In fact we rated the book 5 stars! We all agreed that is was a very enjoyable, easy read and perfect for the holidays. And it's definitely one that we will all recommend to others! We all really like Andrew Clements' writing style so it's likely we'll choose another of his books in a future month....

We spent a bit of time talking about other books club members have read recently that they really liked including Frindle and The School Story (both also by Andrew Clements), Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins and The Doll People and The Meanest Doll in the World by Ann M. Martin. Our club members have been doing a lot of reading lately. We encourage you to pick up any of these books if you're looking for a great read!

Book Club meeting today!

Just a reminder that the Book Buddies Book Club is meeting today at 3:30pm in the Children's Program Room to discuss The Last Holiday Concert by Andrew Clements. I hope you enjoyed it and I look forward to hearing your comments this afternoon!

The Last Holiday Concert - Chapters 17 - 21

Chapter 17: "Accounting"

After the results of the vote are revealed, half the class is still upset about the program. They don't like the acts and songs that won and demand another vote. The class erupts into angry yelling and Hart is helpless to say anything that won't get him in trouble again with his classmates. So he turns to Mr. Meinert for help.

Chapter 18: "Just an Idea"

Mr. Meinert interrupts all the yelling with a question: "Where did the name Winterhope come from?" (p.136) Allison, the girl who came up with the name, explains that it came from the idea of peace. With further discussion, the class decides that peace could be the theme of the concert and that they need to start working together to make the concert happen.

Chapter 19: "Crunch Time"

The chorus, Mr. Meinert and assorted parents all work together to get the program ready, the songs learned and the gym decorated for the big concert. "The road to peace wasn't easy. But thankfully, all the conflict happened within the framework of a fragile, but miraculously effective, sixth grade democracy." (p. 142)

Chapter 20: "Peace"

The holiday concert is performed for parents, friends and relatives. It is a huge success - the sixth graders message of peace is heard loud and clear and their concert is a triumph.

Chapter 21: "Coda"

After the concert, Hart finds Mr. Meinert in the chorus room and thanks him for all his help with the show. He notices that Mr. Meinert is packing up his desk and is upset when he finds out that he has been laid off and won't be back after winter vacation. They say goodbye and Mr. Meinert gives Hart back the rubber band that started it all - "Thanks for letting me have this. It was just what I needed." (p. 166)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Last Holiday Concert - Chapters 14 - 16

Chapter 14: "Mutiny"
After seven class periods, Hart begins to realize that the concert isn't focused enough. There are too many ideas and nothing is being decided on. So he goes home and chooses which songs and acts will be in the program. The next day in chorus he shows his classmates what the holiday concert will be - and he ends up with a mutiny on his hands. No one is happy with Hart's choices and everyone wants their own ideas included in the program. Hart is upset and insists they go with his program - even going so far as to order his classmates to obey him with an angry, "Because I said so!" This one phrase sends Hart's popularity plummeting.

Chapter 15: "Deep Waters"

The next few days are rough for Hart - he's troubled by how fast he's become unpopular and not just in chorus - the news of his teacher-like, "Because I said so!" has gone school-wide. His dad offers him a ride to school one morning in his fancy car (something Hart has been dreaming about) but even that fails when only a couple of kids are there to see his arrival. They turn out to be members of the chorus who aren't interested in seeing or talking to Hart. His dad does give him some advice though, about being a leader: "You can't just give orders. I spend a lot of my time listening. People aren't going to do something - I mean, they won't do it well - unless they really want to." (p.115)

Chapter 16: "Rescue"

That afternoon in chorus Mr. Meinert comes to the rescue. He tells the class that Hart asked him to investigate whether or not the old gym is available for the chorus to use. It turns out the gym is free and the chorus will be able to use it for the holiday concert. It will be a whole separate event and they will be able to incorporate a lot of their original ideas. Hart is surprised by Mr. Meinert's help but goes along with it and tells the class that just like in the beginning when they voted on a chorus director, they should vote now on what should be included in the program.

Are you surprised that the class was upset with Hart's program? Do you think that voting on what to include was the right thing to do?
Why do you think Mr. Meinert decided to help Hart even though he wasn't asked?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Some Holiday Recommendations...

Winter vacation is fast approaching and with it plenty of time to read a good book. Here are some holiday titles you might want to check out:

Peiling and the Chicken-Fried Christmas by Pauline Chen.

Christmas season is in full swing, and Peiling Wang can't take another minute of it. She feels completely left out! Her family is from Taiwan, and even though they've lived in America since she was small, they have never once celebrated the old-fashioned, stockings-over-the-fireplace, all-American Christmas!

Peiling finally musters the courage to ask her parents the big question: can we celebrate Christmas this year? What follows is a full-scale battle between cranberry sauce and soy souce, carols and karaoke, roast turkey and Peking duck. When the dust finally settles, Peiling starts to understand - it's not about being from China or America; it's all about feeling at home.

When Santa Fell to Earth by Cornelia Funke

Thanks to Twinklestar, that marzipan-loving but lightning-shy reindeer, Santa and his caravan have come crashing down in a storm just two weeks before Christmas.

Luckily he's (literally!) dropped into a nice neighborhood. But Santa's not safe.

The ruthless Gerold Geronimus Goblynch plans to put an end to children's wishes and turn the holiday season into his personal moneymaking scheme. Only Santa stands between him and his grinchlike tricks. With the help of kids Charlotte and Ben, Santa will have to face Goblynch and his Nutcracker goons if he's ever to rescue Christmas!

'Tis the Season (Main Street Book 3) by Ann M. Martin
Christmas is coming to Camden Falls, and Flora and Ruby don't know how to feel about it; it's their first Christmas without their parents, and the memories are both happy and sad. Luckily, Flora and Ruba are surrounded by people who care about them--from their grandmother Min to their friends Olivia and Nikki, who are dealing with challenges of their own. There's also an unexpected visitor: Flora and Ruby's aunt, whose presence promises to shake things up. It's going to be a Christmas that nobody ever forgets...

Young Author Writing Contest

Here is your chance to be published! Baker & Taylor, a book distributor to school and public libraries, is having a writing contest for children ages 12 and under. Write a short story that's between 500 and 750 words and that has the Baker & Taylor cats as main characters. The winning story will be illustrated by a famous artist and published! All entries must be submitted by December 31, 2007. For more information visit:

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Last Holiday Concert - Chapter 9 - 13

Chapter 9:"Detention"

While serving his detention in the main office, Hart runs into Mr. Meinert who seems unusually cheerful. They talk and agree that Hart should announce to the class the next day that he can't handle the job of chorus director and that Mr. Meinert should be in charge again. Later on, Hart decides he doesn't like what he's agreed to - he feels tricked. And he decides that he's not going to follow through with it...

Chapter 10: "Brilliance"

At the beginning of chorus the next day, Hart stands up in front of his class and tells them they shouldn't have any more free periods because they still have to stand up in front of the school and their families at the holiday concert and they need to prepare something. Then he turns to Mr. Meinert and says, "So what I want to know is - if the chorus's part of the concert went on for more than thirty minutes, will we get in trouble? 'Cause I've got tons of great ideas about cool stuff we could do, but I don't know how it can all fit into just half and hour." (p.73) Mr. Meinert is furious but the kids all think it's a great idea and start getting excited about all the different things they could do during the concert.

Chapter 11: "Feelings"

Sitting in detention that afternoon, Hart starts to feel a little bad about going back on his word with Mr. Meinert. He realizes that he might have hurt his feelings. When Mr. Meinert comes into the office to get his mail, Hart asks him if he'd be willing to help with the music for the concert. Mr. Meinert is taken back at first but agrees to help Hart out.

Chapter 12: "As Viewed From Above"

The principal, Mr. Richards, starts to get a lot of phone calls from concerned parents of kids in the sixth grade chorus. He decides to investigate what's going on and drops by the chorus unannounced. From outside, he can see that it's loud and unorganized in the room, but the kids all seem to working together. He resolves to keep an eye on things, but not to interfere because "education is all about experimentation." (p. 88)

Chapter 13: "Smooth Sailing" (or "The Chorus According to Hart" -p. 89)

All of the chorus kids are psyched about the upcoming concert and all the fun things they will be doing. The kids have tons of ideas including songs to sing, dance routines, gymnastics, card tricks, rearranging the auditorium and dressing up in costumes. They also come up with a name for the concert, "Winterhope." Hart encourages them all and enjoys his role as leader. Mr. Meinert also starts to enjoy himself and the opportunity he has been given to sit back and watch and listen. "These were new waters for him, too, and Mr. Meinert was paying attention. He was learning. And he felt like he was seeing real kids for the first time since he'd become a music teacher." (p.95) He also remembers his promise to Hart, to be there for him when he's needed. And he feels sure that he'll be needed soon enough.

How did you feel when Hart went back on his word with Mr. Meinert? Was he really "tricked" into giving back the holiday concert? Was it right to just forget what they talked about and do his own thing?

Do you think that Hart's approach to the concert is a good one? Is he setting himself up for failure by agreeing to every idea that comes up?

How would you get your classmates excited about the holiday concert?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Last Holiday Concert: Art

Brian Selznick is the wonderful artist (and graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design!) who did the cover illustration for The Last Holiday Concert. He is primarily known as an illustrator but he has also written (and illustrated) a few books of his own. His latest book is The Invention of Hugo Cabret.
Check out his website at:

The Last Holiday Concert- Chapters 5 - 8

Chapter 5: "Temptations"
Hart's unsure whether or not he should tell his parents the truth about his detentions - and face a possible punishment. He's saved from making the decision by his sister who threatens to tell on him. Obviously it's much worse to be ratted out by your sister, so Hart fesses up and tells his parents. He goes over the top, convincing his parents that he's learned a valuable lesson and it'll never happen again. And just like that - he's home free.

Meanwhile, Mr. Meinert's wife is so outraged at the way her husband is being treated by the school, the town and the kids that she encourages him to quit immediately. He refuses because he loves his job and still wants to do it well.

Chapter 6: "Snap"

Back in chorus the next day, Mr. Meinert attempts to get the kids to focus on the holiday concert but they are all more interested in the snow that is falling outside. He explodes, telling them that he's done trying to teach them. The holiday concert is now up to them.

Chapter 7: "The Voice of the People"

The kids decide to hold an election to vote for a new chorus director. They decide that anyone in the class can be nominated and they will vote by secret ballot. Mr. Meinert agrees to count the votes after the election and the winner is.....Hart Evans.

Chapter 8: "Director"

At first Hart is upset - he doesn't want the job of chorus director. But eventually he agrees to do it and declares that chorus will be a free period from now on. Mr. Meinert is secretly thrilled with how the class is going. He's convinced that the kids can only stand chaos for a short time and that Hart will become overwhelmed and beg him to take charge again. But will he?

These four chapters bring up some interesting questions....what would you do if your teacher suddenly stopped teaching? Do you really think it would be all that great to just goof off day after day? Maybe at first it would be exciting...but after a few weeks?

Do you think Hart is a genuine guy? Did he manipulate his parents when it came to telling them about the detentions? It seems like he's the kind of guy who always says what you want to hear. Does that make him a good person or a fake?

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick Writing Contest

The publisher Houghton Mifflin is holding a writing contest to celebrate the new Harris Burdick website. The contest is open to children in grades 2 - 8 and ends January 15, 2008. For more information visit:

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Last Holiday Concert - Chapters 1 - 4

Chapter 1: "Palmer Kids"
We are introduced to Hart Evans, sixth grader at Palmer Intermediate. Hart's a popular kid thrilled that, for the first time, he's in a different school than his fourth grade sister, Sarah.

Chapter 2: "Coolness"

While attending a special event in the school auditorium, Hart thinks about how he is one of the coolest kids in his class, how he and other cool kids became friends at the beginning of the school year, and how the one uncool thing in his life is being in the school chorus. "Chorus simply was not cool, not one bit of it, which meant that chorus cramped Hart's style in the worst possible way." (p. 16)

Chapter 3: "Misfire"
Hart decides that the one thing that will improve chorus is shooting rubber bands in the direction of Mr. Meinert, the music teacher. He's caught and brought to the principal who gives him 2 days of detention.

Chapter 4: "Bad Behavior"

Mr. Meinert is furious that Hart's punishment was so light. He and the principal get into a big fight about it and Mr. Meinert is reprimanded for his own bad behavior - grabbing Hart's arm and getting so angry. We also find out that Mr. Meinert has been laid off from his job, effective January 1st, because of town budget cuts.

The first four chapters really set the scene for what's to come. I'm expecting a big showdown between Mr. Meinert and Hart. It's pretty clear that Mr. Meinert feels that there isn't much for him to loose by singling Hart out. Hart's going to need to watch out...

Hart seems like a nice enough kid but I wondered about the part where Hart is remembering back to earlier that morning (before the assembly) when he and the other sixth graders were outside the auditorium. Hart remembers smiling and talking to a lot of different kids. "And it wasn't fakey nice. Hart was for real. (p. 13) Really? It sounded kind of fake to me, like part of his act. What do you think? Is Hart for real or is he playing the part of the cool kid who's nice to everyone else?